Use of Propaganda to Increase Ku Klux Klan Membership
The human mind interprets thought in a manner unique to their species. Each thought is expressed as an emotion, whether it be jubilation, sadness, anger or hate. The latter of these emotions is what I believe to be the strongest feeling that the human being can experience. In the face of hatred each individual reacts in their own peerless fashion. Some run in fear, while many speak out against such injustice; yet others react in a much different way—they embrace the hate. A prime example of a group of individuals that thrived in such an environment would be the second movement of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan, reestablished in 1915, was not originally the potent force that they came to be in the middle part of the 1920’s. During the first five years of existence, the Klan only increased by four thousand; but during the next eight years nearly ten million men and women joined the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan. What events transpired that caused such a dramatic increase in Klan membership in such a limited time span? Leading Klan theorists of the 1920’s often pondered this question and it is my intention to examine their findings. Three prominent causes seemed to be found in these findings: the post-war feelings of many Americans, the natural aversion to anything foreign, and the various propaganda spread about and by the Klan.
The natural tendencies of man are to be loyal to ones’ own people, thus having an aversion to all that is foreign. Preying upon this very idea, the Klansmen preached of their hatred for all groups alien to their original American stock. These groups included Catholics, Jews, African Americans, and all immigrants in general. Dr. John Moffat Mecklin, author of Ku Klux Klan, adamantly agrees with this theory. He provides a speech given by the Imperial Wizard of the Klan, William S. Simmons, as evidence to this claim:
My friends, your government can be changed between the rising and the setting of one sun. This great nation with all it provides can be snatched away from you in the space of one day?. When the hordes of aliens walk to the ballot box and their votes outnumber yours, then that alien horde has got you by the throat?. Americans will awake from their slumber and rush out to battle and there will be such stir as the world has never seen the like. The soil of America will run with the blood of its people. (Ku Klux Klan, 102)
The sentiments provided by Simmons appealed to the public masses that had secretly thought this but had no solidified group to share these feelings with—the Klan provided them this opportunity. The Klan made their recruits believe that these thoughts were only a result of strong American pride, this only added to the appeal. Charles C. Alexander, author of The Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest, shows that politicians of this era also shared these views. In a speech delivered by President Warren G. Harding he stated that our country needed "not...